Inanna's Journey and "girly" heroes
There are traditional "girly" heroes – often they take the pattern of Inanna's Journey. Rather than "leveling up" like a plucky male hero, Inanna's Journey is about maintaining wits/dignity/femininity while losing or descending in status. Once she's lost everything, she wins by proving her worth isn't about superficial material things but her strength of character (sometimes coded as undisguisable beauty or high breeding).
Cinderella has feminine hero traits of endurance and kindness. Her goal isn't to punch someone in the face but to experience a beautiful party – that's it, that's her desire. She doesn't expect anything more than that, it's the total opposite of cleaning fireplaces and scrubbing floors. She doesn't vow revenge on her oppressors (all female) or set out to infiltrate the monarchy. She still manages to have an enduring story because her story isn't really about magic shoes and dresses, it's about an underdog who has a desire. A lesser story would fulfill the desire then end, Cinderella gets a "Yes, But…" on her dream-come-true and the story continues. She appears to have no agency, but her girly moment upsets the whole country (compare to winning a tournament that upsets the whole country).
Cinderella is not a Feminist paradise. The antagonists fail, not because they violate Cinderella's value system of kindness and endurance, but because
the stepsisters' feet do not meet male-gaze expectations of femininity.
So there are negatives to the girly hero if the whole issue of gender/femininity is reduced to "looking nice in a dress".
Write better characters
I wrote a recap of the rules Samual R Delaney and Marilyn Hacker created for "better, more varied, more believable women characters":
What is meant by “purposeful, habitual, and gratuitous” actions?
Through her experience as an editor, Hacker complained that female characters were restricted to another false dichotomy: Vicious Evil Bitches or Simps – limitations that arose because the (rare) female character was only in service to a male protagonist. The shallowness of their character design reflected how little they contributed. Simps were girly and fell in love with the protagonist. Bitches were – well, bitches – some kind of ineffectual antagonist, but often became Simps upon meeting him.
The false dichotomy is whether they were nice or mean, since they had the same reason for being in the story: to flatter the main character. They had no narrative agency or realistic motivations. It was easy to classify them as one or the other despite the crossover because there wasn't enough of a character to identify as anything else.
Diversify your female characters
Dress or Pants is a false dichotomy that doesn't say anything meaningful about g̶e̶n̶d̶e̶r̶ a character. The real issue is shallow tournament plots that climax in fisticuffs and action-movie banter. There just isn't a whole lot of variation or character depth there. The climax will be Hero confronts Villain, so those are the only characters that get any sort of arc to feel real.
The Feminist in me can't unsee that many male supporting characters are also "Simps and Bitches" just played out non-sexually. A sidekick is essentially a Simp following the hero around, while a frenemy (like Lancelot) starts confrontational but is won over by the hero's charisma or whatever – it's Bitch-to-Simp just without the skirt. It looks worse on female characters because of the lack of female protagonists, and a lack of other female characters in general.
Mix up the tropes you associate with girly-women and tomboys. I'll bet they suggest new characters that you recognize. For instance, which one loves animals (a feminine trait?) and what type of animal would each prefer? Which one has a closet full of shoes – is it somehow better if those shoes are high heels or the latest Air Jordans®? Which one is more physically competitive? Which one is more vain? Which one is more ambitious, or self-conscious? Which one works in an all-male industry, which one has considered their gender presentation and altered it to be accepted? For all of these I can imagine reality-based characters that go either way, and it forces me to re-think my own expectations. Pick something they wouldn't do, and make it work.
Write better stories
This is the whole point of Delaney's essay.
A realistically diverse population of women (in all age groups and financial tiers as suggested by Delaney and Hacker) would contextualize the character within a world of people, rather than fill the passenger seat as the sidekick/Simp and frenemy/Bitch to flatter a hero's journey, or more rare to substitute as the same old Hero with a slight cosmetic variation: a Ripley character.
The easiest thing to do is add more female characters so this one doesn't stand out as representational of all women who exist in the story – you'll need more than 2 or you end up with the false dichotomy again.
Lastly, here is the direct quote from Delaney's essay about the 3 actions that all characters need [my clarifications are in square brackets]:
Action is the clearest (and most commercial) way to present character.
A good character of either sex must be shown performing purposeful
actions (that further the plot), habitual actions (that particularly
define her or him), and gratuitous actions (actions that imply a life
beyond the limit of the fiction).
Simply because the way most books are plotted, the male characters
regularly get to indulge in all three types of actions, however, if
evil bitch, [her actions] are all purpose
but no habit or gratuitous; if simp she is
all gratuitous but no purpose or habit.
So the first task, after finding a plot that just does not require
women in either of these ugly, banal, and boringly cliché grooves, is
to make sure you portray your women characters clearly performing all
three types of actions. (And, re: the purposeful actions, performing